Plastics are one of the most widely used materials in the world which society will always be dependent on. This dependency has been clearly highlighted by the requirements for hygiene and protection during the recent global COVID pandemic (Adyel, 2020; Prata et al., 2020). Plastics are broadly integrated into today’s lifestyle and are present in almost all consumer and industrial sectors and their production continues to increase (Geyer et al., 2017). Unfortunately, one of the characteristics of plastics that make them so useful—their durability—also ensures that they persist in the environment for very long periods of time. Additionally, and because of their low cost, many plastic objects have long been perceived as disposable. The consequence of this, coupled with the difficulty in developing effective waste management strategies, has been the ubiquitous contamination of the entire planet by plastic debris. Even if proposed global actions to recycle more plastic or prevent the export of plastic waste to countries with poorly developed waste infrastructure through the Basel Convention are implemented, plastic emissions are expected to increase for the foreseeable future unless significant breakthroughs in plastic design or waste management are realized (Lau et al., 2020). Increasing emissions also imply that exposure to plastic pollution and its degradation products, like microplastics, nanoplastics, plastic additives, and other chemical leachates, will continue to increase. Such an accumulating plastic cocktail can result in complex and unpredictable impacts, including those on ecological processes (Rillig et al., 2021) or the global carbon cycle (Zhu, 2021).



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Frontiers in Environmental Science



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School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences